Where There’s Smoke

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Samantha Fields talks about her process at the Museum of Art & History in Lancaster, CA on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.

Dana and I went to see the new MOAH exhibit “Made in the Mojave” with our friends Teresa and Mary last Saturday afternoon.  (Great new tradition, I hope!) I fell in love with Samantha Field’s work, especially these wildfire paintings, so I went back on Tuesday for her artist’s walk through.

She described how she does field research on storms and fires, how she preps each canvas with layer upon layer of superfine acrylic paint to create a smooth base. Some of the many photographs and sketchbooks she works from, including ones bordered by paint color samples, were on display.  She talked about the many layers of superfine paint with which she builds each image.

It was interesting, in spite of all the evidence, to hear some of the questions and comments from the assembled group that strove to confirm that making art is a matter of divine inspiration, inaccessible to most people.  I’m just an observer, but it seems that there is movement toward demystifying the creation of art these days. The curator, in her introduction to the exhibit, talked about the “makers” represented rather than the “artists.” I’ve heard this terminology before. We can all imagine ourselves making something.

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You think you know what you’re looking at in Fields’ work, and then a pair of headlights catches your eye. The world shifts. This, to me, is the secret of desert landscapes in life. You have to spend some time with them to understand them.

A few of us hung out after most of the crowd left to explore the rest of the museum. One young artist challenged Fields’ use of canvas rather than more modern, already smooth surfaces.

She explained that she hasn’t found anything more archival or flexible than canvas, even though she has to do so much to prepare it for her purposes. She once sold a large piece to a corporate client; it had to be taken off the frame and rebuilt in the space because of a narrow stairway. That couldn’t have happened with a rigid base.

Fields also told how a friend sold work done on a rigid surface. It went to a home in Malibu where the humidity caused the paint to bubble and slough off.  Heart-breaking!

“These,” she grinned, gesturing at her work, “Will be here in a thousand years!”

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Where There’s Smoke

  1. You’re right—those tiny headlights so far down under the storm bring it all into focus. Wow! Next time I’m driving in a heavy rainstorm I’ll have to imagine it from above. Glad you got to attend both her presentations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, yes! I love how art can help us experience the world in new ways. She said this storm was in Nebraska, where you can see a storm from far off and then drive to it. She taught herself to storm chase.

      Like

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